"Shazam!" I joked to my husband as we walked through the doors into... a fairy tale? Heaven? Tolkein's Rivendell?
Ethereal blue and purpley globes of light seemed to float on each table in the semi-darkness. Brighter glints of blueish-white light sparkled like stars above and around the globes. Farther up, the perimeter walls were covered in huge projection screens, each cycling through myriad images: John Glenn climbing into Friendship 7, President Kennedy watching the launch on one of those boxy old tv sets, fantastic space scenes, John and Annie's wedding picture... We were surrounded by Glenn's incredible life! Most of all, we were immersed in that historic day, exactly 50 years ago, when he became the first American to orbit the Earth.
Pulling out the camera, I was relieved to see other people doing the same. Maybe we're not as out of place as I feel, considering we never would've even been able to afford the faculty/staff discount tickets if my parents hadn't bought them for us as a present!
|It was like being in an enchanted land!|
|the program cover|
Upon opening the program that was lying on my seat, I almost let a squeak escape from my mouth. I squeezed Husband's elbow. "Honey, NEIL ARMSTRONG is going to be here! He's the opening speaker!" Sure, I had half-jokingly mentioned yesterday that maybe he would come, as we speculated on the fancy people who might be in attendance. After all, he is friends with John Glenn. But he hardly EVER appears in public! I can't believe we get to see and listen to Neil Armstrong!!! Husband and I were practically squirming with excitement. (Just seeing John Glenn should've been exciting enough, but we've both been lucky enough to meet him several times!)
The event began with a cute skit re-creating a classroom of children about to watch Glenn's flight 50 years ago. (An experience that's one of my mom's most vivid childhood memories.) The room darkened as real footage of lift-off filled the screen, complete with red backlighting on the walls as the rocket boosters lit and a deep, vibrating audio rumble that we could really feel. We were transported back to Cape Canaveral in 1962!
|Armstrong & his own moon footprint|
Then, a fantastic video trailer about Neil Armstrong... and there he was, walking up to the podium! Sharp, funny, and heart-felt, his speech to honor his friend was mesmerizing. (Well, the fact that we were even in the same room as him was mesmerizing!) Next, a delicious dinner and friendly chit-chat with our tablemates, surrounded by more projected slideshows of pictures and facts about Glenn. (Did you know he flew 149 combat missions in WWII and Korea?)
As we enjoyed our own little chocolate Earth cakes with 3 candy orbits around them, keynote speaker Captain Mark Kelly (commander of the last Shuttle mission) inspired us all with a mix of stories about his own astronaut career and his wife's incredible strength and tenacity.
|dessert! so cute!|
To top it off, a cute Q&A with John and Annie, led by an OSU student. Not only do they have amazing lives separately -- John's Friendship 7 and Shuttle flights and career as a Senator, plus Annie's work to overcome stuttering and help others do the same -- but they are one of the most incredible living love stories around. At one point, they were talking about their engagement (John said he had $150 and he spent $125 of it on Annie's ring), and Annie kissed the ring and held it out for John to do the same. And he did, right in front of everyone. Even in their 90's, they're just like two high school sweethearts madly in love. Beautiful.
|one of the slides that cycled through during the event|
Unlike most of the audience, Husband is lucky enough to get to see John Glenn every few weeks at work (and even help him!) -- a dream come true for someone who's still a space-loving little boy at heart. Still, it was so special to be a part of this incredible celebration of his hero, especially when some of the people leading the celebration were heroes themselves!